Archive for Experimental Physics

Physics Lectureship in Maynooth!

Posted in Maynooth with tags , , , , , on June 18, 2019 by telescoper

Every now and then I have the opportunity to use the medium of this blog to draw the attention of my vast readership (both of them) to employment opportunities. Today is another such occasion, so I am happy to point out that my colleagues in the Department of Experimental Physics are advertising a lectureship. For full details, see here, but I draw your attention in particular to this paragraph:

The Department of Experimental Physics is seeking candidates with the potential to build on the research strengths of the Department in the areas of either terahertz optics or atmospheric physics. The Department is especially interested in candidates with research experience that could broaden the scope of current research activity. This could include for example terahertz applications in space, imaging, remote sensing and communications or applications of atmospheric physics related to monitoring and modelling climate change. It would be an advantage if the candidate’s research involved international collaboration with the potential for interdisciplinary initiatives with other University institutes and departments.

The deadline for applications is Sunday 28 July 2019 at 11.30pm.

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Physics: Mathematical or Theoretical or Experimental?

Posted in Education, Maynooth, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , on November 26, 2018 by telescoper

Fresh from doing two Open Day talks last week I thought I’d write a few words here about something that cropped up in the question-and-answer session.

For a start, I should explain that here at Maynooth University there are two Physics departments, one the Department of Theoretical Physics (of which I am a Faculty member) and the other the Department of Experimental Physics. These two units are in the same building but are largely separate in terms of teaching and research.

For instance, when students enter on our General Science degree programme they have to choose four subjects in the first year, including Mathematics (much as I did when I did my Natural Sciences degree at Cambridge back in the day). Picking `double physics’ (i.e. Experimental Physics and Theoretical Physics) uses up two of those choices, whereas Physics was a single choice in the first year of my degree.

To confuse matters still further, the Department of Theoretical Physics only recently changed its name from the Department of Mathematical Physics and some of our documentation still carries that title. I got asked several times at the weekend what’s the difference between Theoretical Physics and Mathematical Physics?

As far as Maynooth is concerned we basically use those terms interchangeably and, although it might appear a little confusing at first, having both terms scattered around our webpages means that Google searches for both `Mathematical Physics’ and `Theoretical Physics’ will find us.

It’s interesting though that Wikipedia has different pages for Mathematical Physics and Theoretical Physics. The former begins

Mathematical physics refers to the development of mathematical methods for application to problems in physics. The Journal of Mathematical Physics defines the field as “the application of mathematics to problems in physics and the development of mathematical methods suitable for such applications and for the formulation of physical theories”. It is a branch of applied mathematics, but deals with physical problems.

while the latter starts

Theoretical physics is a branch of physics that employs mathematical models and abstractions of physical objects and systems to rationalize, explain and predict natural phenomena. This is in contrast to experimental physics, which uses experimental tools to probe these phenomena.

The difference is subtle,and there is obviously a huge amount in common between these two definitions, but it is perhaps that Theoretical Physics is more focused on the use of mathematics to account for the results of experiment and observations whereas Mathematical Physics concerns itself more with the development of the necessary mathematical techniques, but I’m sure there will be readers of this blog who disagree with this interpretation.

For the record here is what Wikipedia says about Experimental Physics:

Experimental physics is the category of disciplines and sub-disciplines in the field of physics that are concerned with the observation of physical phenomena and experiments. Methods vary from discipline to discipline, from simple experiments and observations, such as the Cavendish experiment, to more complicated ones, such as the Large Hadron Collider.

I’d say that theoretical physicists are more likely than mathematical physicists to be working closely with experimentalists. I count myself as a theoretical physicist (that’s what I did in Part II at Cambridge, anyway) though I do work a lot with data.

Anyway, as an experiment, I asked the audience at my Open Day talks if they could name a famous physicist. Most popular among the responses were the names you would have guessed: Einstein, Hawking, Feynman, Dirac, Newton, Schrodinger, and some less familiar names such as Leonard Susskind and Brian Greene. Every single one of these is (or was) a theorist of some kind. This is confirmed by the fact that many potential students mention similar names in the personal statements they write in support of their university applications. For better or worse, it seems that to many potential students Physics largely means Theoretical (or Mathematical) Physics.

Although it is probably good for our recruitment that there are so many high-profile theoretical physicists, it probably says more about how little the general public knows about what physics actually is and how it really works. For me the important thing is the interplay between theory and experiment (or observation), as it is in that aspect where the whole exceeds the sum of the parts.

It might seem a bit strange to have two Physics departments in one University – though it seems to work alright in Cambridge! – but I think it works pretty well. The one problem is that there isn’t a clear entry point for `Physics’ without an adjective. Students can carry Theoretical Physics and Experimental Physics through all the way to final year and get a joint honours degree (50% theory and 50% experiment) or they can pick one to do single honours, but we might attract a few more students if the former possibility were just called `Physics’. Perhaps.

Exciting Opportunity in Experimental Physics at the University of Sussex!

Posted in Education, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , on July 23, 2015 by telescoper

Just a quick update on the news that Department of Physics & Astronomy at the University of Sussex has an exciting opportunity in the form of a brand new Chair position in Experimental Physics. The advertisement appeared on the University of Sussex website somedays ago. But it has now appeared on Nature Jobs and the Times Higher websites. It is also in today’s print edition of the Times Higher. At least I think it is. I couldn’t find a copy in W.H. Smith’s when I went there today. Obviously it has sold out because word has got out about this job!

I’m taking the liberty of reposting a description of the new position here, but for fuller details please visit the formal advertisement.

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The School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences seeks to appoint a Professor in Experimental Physics in the Department of Physics & Astronomy to lead the next phase of expansion and diversification of the research portfolio within the School by establishing an entirely new research activity in laboratory-based physics.

Sufficient resources will be made available to the selected candidate to establish a new group at Sussex in their field of experimental physics including, for example, condensed matter (interpreted widely), materials science, nanophysics or biophysics. Applicants in research areas with scope for interdisciplinary collaborations with other Schools at the University of Sussex (e.g. Life Sciences, Engineering & Informatics or Brighton and Sussex Medical School) are encouraged, especially  those in areas with potential for generating research impact, as defined in the context of the UK Research Excellence Framework.

The successful applicant will have a proven track-record of success in obtaining substantial external funding through research grants and/or industrial sponsorship.

The appointee will be supported with substantial (seven-figure) sum for start-up funding and an extensive newly-refurbished laboratory space. The financial package on offer will also support the appointment of at least two further experimental lectureships; the appointed professor is expected to be strongly involved in recruitment to these positions.

Informal (and confidential) enquiries may be addressed in the first instance to the Head of School, Professor Peter Coles (P.Coles@sussex.ac.uk).

An Exciting Opportunity in Experimental Physics at the University of Sussex!

Posted in Education, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , on July 14, 2015 by telescoper

After much planning and preparatory work, I’m pleased that I am now in a position to announce that the Department of Physics & Astronomy at the University of Sussex has an exciting opportunity in the form of a brand new Chair position in Experimental Physics. The advertisement will shortly appear in both Nature and the Times Higher but it has already appeared on the University of Sussex website. I’m taking the liberty of posting a description of the new position here, but for fuller details please visit the formal advertisement.

–0–

The School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences seeks to appoint a Professor in Experimental Physics in the Department of Physics & Astronomy to lead the next phase of expansion and diversification of the research portfolio within the School by establishing an entirely new research activity in laboratory-based physics.

Sufficient resources will be made available to the selected candidate to establish a new group at Sussex in their field of experimental physics including, for example, condensed matter (interpreted widely), materials science, nanophysics or biophysics. Applicants in research areas with scope for interdisciplinary collaborations with other Schools at the University of Sussex (e.g. Life Sciences, Engineering & Informatics or Brighton and Sussex Medical School) are encouraged, especially  those in areas with potential for generating research impact, as defined in the context of the UK Research Excellence Framework.

The successful applicant will have a proven track-record of success in obtaining substantial external funding through research grants and/or industrial sponsorship.

The appointee will be supported with substantial (seven-figure) sum for start-up funding and an extensive newly-refurbished laboratory space. The financial package on offer will also support the appointment of at least two further experimental lectureships; the appointed professor is expected to be strongly involved in recruitment to these positions.

Informal (and confidential) enquiries may be addressed in the first instance to the Head of School, Professor Peter Coles (P.Coles@sussex.ac.uk).

 

Big Trouble with Big G

Posted in The Universe and Stuff with tags , , on February 4, 2014 by telescoper

An Antonymous email correspondent this morning drew my attention to an interesting article in the latest Physics World about the trials and tribulations of groups of physicists trying to measure Newton’s Gravitational Constant,  G. This is probably the first physical constant that most of us encounter when we’re learning the subject so it might seem strange that it’s the one which is known to the lowest accuracy. That’s not for want of trying to make the measurements more precise, just that gravity is such a very weak force that it’s very difficult to eliminate systematic effects down to the necessary level.

Just how difficult it is to measure Big G is demonstrated by the following graphic which shows the latest measurements:

Big_G

Here’s the caption, so you can identify the various groups responsible for the various measurements:

Disagreeing over “big G” This chart shows wildly differing values of the gravitational constant, G, as measured by various high-profile research groups (blue). The values do not agree even within their error bars. Also shown are two values of G adopted by the Committee on Data for Science and Technology (CODATA) as international standards (red). The groups are based at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the University of Washington (UWASH), the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM), the Measurement Standards Laboratory of New Zealand (MSL), the University of Zurich (UZURICH), the Huazhong University of Science and Technology (HUST) and the Joint Institute for Astrophysics (JILA).

Clearly there’s quite a lot of disagreement between recent results, with some a long way outside each other’s error bars. They can’t all be right, but who’s most likely to be wrong? Answers on a postcard.

I’m by no means an expert on experimental gravity so I won’t attempt to suggest who is right and who is wrong. What I will say is that although this kind of research is clearly extremely important it is clearly also fiendishly difficult. I’m not really surprised that the pieces of the puzzle haven’t fallen into place yet. The dedicated teams who have been tackling this problem for many decades deserve the deep admiration as well as the continued support of the physics community. Theoretical physics is generally perceived to be more glamorous and exciting than its experimental counterpart, but the subject as a whole is nothing without its empirical foundations. That said, I’m glad it’s not my job to measure Big G. I have neither the practical skill nor the patience to cope with so many frustrations!

A Lab of Honour

Posted in Education, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , on February 5, 2013 by telescoper

Last Friday, my first day in post here at the University of Sussex, there was a small ceremony to mark the formal opening of a new undergraduate teaching laboratory. Appropriately, it was named after Professor Ken Smith who died last year. Professor Smith was an outstanding experimental physicist who joined the University of Sussex way back in 1960 before the campus had even been built. Over the next three decades, as well as developing a new research activity in which the Department is now world-leading, he made substantial contributions to laboratory teaching in particular. He also played his part in the administration of the Department, serving as the first Chairman of Physics, and then as Dean of the School of Mathematical and Physics Sciences (MAPS) and later as Laboratory Director. Prof. Smith retired in 1988, which was the year I finished my DPhil from the (then) School of Mathematics and Physical Sciences.

IMG-20130201-00049

Anyway, it was a pleasant occasion at which Prof. Philip Harris (to the left of the picture), Head of the Department of Physics & Astronomy, spoke of Professor Ken Smith’s many achievements, Ken’s widow Verena unveiled the commemorative plaque, and we all gathered for tea and cakes in the foyer so as not to disturb further the students still hard at work at their experiments…

IMG-20130201-00050

Announcement of Opportunities

Posted in Education, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , on June 16, 2010 by telescoper

I mentioned this a while ago, but I thought it wouldn’t do any harm to repeat the official advertisement here. Cardiff is going large (or at least larger) in experimental physics, and the first deadline is approaching..

..so get cracking with your applications now!

Chair in Experimental Physics

Reader/Senior Lecturer/Lecturer in Experimental Physics

School of Physics and Astronomy

As the first stage of a major initiative to broaden its research activity the School of Physics and Astronomy at Cardiff University has some immediate vacancies for permanent faculty positions at either full Professor/Reader/Senior Lecturer/Lecturer level in any area of Experimental Physics, other than Astrophysics.

Applications are welcome in fields new to the School as well as those complementary to the existing strengths. Candidates working in interdisciplinary areas with a firm Physics base are also welcomed. You will be expected to have demonstrated an established programme of research, and will also be expected to teach Physics at undergraduate and postgraduate level.

The School of Physics and Astronomy at Cardiff University has strong research groups in Photons & Matter (theory and experimental), Gravitational Physics and Nanophysics, as well as a large Astrophysics programme.

You should have a PhD in Physics, Mathematics or closely-related subject.

Salary:
A point on the Cardiff Professorial Salary Scale (Chair)
£45155 – £55535 per annum (Reader)
£37839 – £43840 per annum (Senior Lecturer)
£29853 – £35646 per annum (Lecturer)

Further information about the School may be found at http://www.astro.cardiff.ac.uk/

Informal enquiries regarding these positions may be made to Professor Walter Gear, Head of School, email Walter.Gear@astro.cardiff.ac.uk

To work for an employer that values and promotes equality of opportunity, visit www.cardiff.ac.uk/jobs telephone + 44 (0) 29 2087 4017 or email vacancies@cardiff.ac.uk for an application form quoting vacancy number 186 for the Chair position and 188 for the Reader/Senior Lecturer/Lecturer position.

Closing date: Friday, 23 July 2010.

Please note vacancies are for one Chair and three Senior Lecturer/Lecturer positions.

www.cardiff.ac.uk/jobs